The Talmudic Sages Asked the Same Questions that Contemporary Biblical Critics Ask

I think that חז”ל saw the questions. One of the things I find interesting about studying Biblical critics nine times out of ten, or even ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the questions that Biblical critics are asking are typically anticipated by מדרשים.

חז”ל’s answers are very different from the answers that modern Biblical scholars give, but the fact that Jews have been aware of these questions for two thousand years is something that I find very comforting, that, somehow, they were able to go on.

Rabbi Jeff Fox, “Joshua’s Farewell Speech“, YCT Yom Iyun (New York City: 13 January 2014).


One of the successes of literary-critical scholarship on the midrashic literature

One of the successes of literary-critical scholarship on the midrashic literature has been the determination of a plausible relative chronology of the documents, based strictly on internal literary criteria (e.g., use of Hebrew vs. Palestinian Aramaic; amount of Greek and Latin employed; nature and frequency of attributions; dependence on, or literary affinity with, other documents). Documents deemed to be earlier bear stylistic affinities with the Palestinian Talmud, use a fair amount of Galilean Aramaic and Greek and tend to attribute materials to a variety of Palestinian Amoraim mentioned in the Palestinian Talmud. Documents deemed to be later are mostly in Hebrew, use little Aramaic and Greek, and contain fewer attributions (many of which are suspect).

Richard S. Sarason, “Toward a New Agendum for the Study of Rabbinic Midrashic Literature” in Studies in Aggadah, Targum and Jewish Literature in Memory of Joseph Heinemann, eds. Jakob J. Petuchowski and Ezra Fleischer (Jerusalem & Cincinnati: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University and Hebrew Union College Press, 1981), 59, n.12.